Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hammond Speaks!

This is a short but must read Washington Post piece

by Stanford's Linda Darling Hammond . Her insightful take on the International Summit on Teaching calls America to task. She exposes how America’s teaching system is light years apart from those of the highest performing nations. Where we talk about firing teachers, Singapore pays a salary to teaching students during their training.

Why not in the US? Why can’t we find the political will to make vast changes and transform our education? President Obama can’t speak about education without mentioning America’s receding place internationally in educational outcomes. Yet, amazingly, our policies in no way emulate what’s working abroad. It calls into question his, and the country’s real intentions and commitment to educating us all. But really that may be the elephant in the room. Educating us all. What’s the big difference between the United States and the rest of these high performing countries? Well, they actually care about the outcomes of ALL their children.

We’re so busy Racing to the Top, we haven’t taken a moment to question the very fundamentals of our educational system. Why don’t we have a federal funding system for education (as the highest performing countries do)? Why don’t we have a national system to train teachers and equitably distribute them around the nation?

For years America’s latent social, economic and institutional racism have survived in the realm of education. It’s been perfectly OK for full swaths of Black and Brown children to go underserved. We could throw them away and still outperform other countries. Well, now the chicken has come home to roost. If only for selfish economic reasons we can no longer tolerate the status quo. Yet, even with that reality shinning before us, old habits die hard. We still have no political will (or heart) to start caring for children we once deemed insignificant.

As a nation we often define the Civil War as America’s great race test. African slavery was ultimately determined to be incompatible with American ideals. Well, sadly, and perhaps more subtly education may be our true watershed issue on racism in America. To successfully solve our educational inequities may be our national savior. And conversely, our heartlessness and underlying racism in educating our children may well be the undoing of the nation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What you Need to Know

Check-out this provocative episode of PBS’s Need to Know (Ahead of the Class)

. The episode discusses successful strategies developed by high schools to improve learning. There’s Brockton High in Massachusetts where they’ve implemented a school wide literacy program that’s greatly improved student writing. The program’s focus is a little too testing focused for my taste, however, their work to turnaround a low performing school using teacher collaboration may be an important model in this “fire teachers” climate. There’s the University of Maryland at Baltimore efforts to increase students of color graduating with degrees in science. A really great effort! Then there’s using a fitness curriculum to improve student outcomes. As it turns out exercise can make you think better. It’s working in Naperville, IL.

Informative Webinar on National Education Efforts

An informative webinar Building a Grad Nation

from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Learn about the latest federal budget cut proposals in education. Also hear about upcoming events: Grad Nation by the America’s Promise Alliance and the United Way. It’s not from the signature Justice Matters racial justice perspective. But if you want to keep up the work being done by major education org, this will get you up to speed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Will the stars align for ESEA?

Obama’s speech before students at a Virginia middle school heartened all those hoping for movement on ESEA. Alyson Klein of Education Week reported on Obama’s call to have ESEA finished in time for the next school year. He says this as NCLB guidelines promise to label the majority of the nation’s schools failing; in accordance with the 2014 AYP deadline for achievement. He’s seizing this political moment to highlight the shortcomings of the current law and emphasize the need for a comprehensive replacement.

The president also showed a commitment to protect education from slashes now threatening a host of social services and other federal government programs. He seal this commitment with a promise of vetoing anything to the contrary.

It’s good to see that the president is steadfast in his commitment to education. That commitment to ESEA, mixed an with interest from key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and an Obama education proposal replete conservative hallmarks may make ESEA the best (and only) hope for major legislative passage this session. Yet, the president may be throwing all of his eggs into a hole ridden basket. He's going to the mat for an agenda that may rearrange deck chairs while never opening a debate that questions fundamental inequities in education. In the end he may get his legislation yet it may not be political energy well spent.

Friday, March 4, 2011

More Budget Woes

Education fell victim to cuts as Congress works to pass a stop gap budget and avert a government shut down. Teach for America, The Writing Project, and others took a serious hit. Sadly, students of color in low income areas are most likely to feel the pain. Teach for America will now be able to serve 25,000 fewer students, a program to train principals for America's most underserved schools has been eliminated. True to past cuts, those most vulnerable suffer the greatest. Prospects don't look great for the next budget. Read more…